1. Brown rice
If you recently made the switch to brown rice, you may not know that it expires much faster than white rice. I learned this the hard way. Having bought several packages on a deal, I noticed a faint musty smell once I opened package number two. Little did I know that brown rice expires just 6 months after the packaging date.
The same goes for other whole-grain rice varieties (such as wild rice, red rice, or black rice), all because the natural oils in the rice bran go rancid pretty soon. If you want to extend the shelf life of an unopened package of whole-grain rice, put it in the freezer. It should hold up for around a year.
What about white rice? Since rice bran is removed during the milling process, white rice can be kept in your pantry pretty much indefinitely according to the USA Rice Federation. Just make sure to keep it sealed away from moisture and pests.
Not in the mood for cereal every morning? Then we’d say that it’s best not to purchase it in bulk, as an opened box of cereal is guaranteed to go stale in 3 months maximum, even if you decant it into an airtight container. That said, an unopened batch of cereal will retain its taste and crunch for up to 1 year. This is for simple cereals like corn flakes; the shelf life of cereal varieties that contain nuts and other add-ins will be less than that.
Note that eating old cereal won’t make you sick, so it’s technically still safe to eat. But who would want to begin their day with a bowl of stale cereal?
3. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds won’t spoil in your backpack, that’s why they are everyone’s favorite travel snack. But make no mistake, the fact that a bag of almonds or pumpkin seeds can last in your bag for a few days doesn’t mean that they will last in the pantry for years. As a rule of thumb, shelled nuts and seeds retain quality for 4-6 months. Unshelled nuts usually stay fresh for 2-3 extra months.
After that, the natural oils that are present in abundance in all nuts and seeds will go bad, and you will notice a rancid smell, oily stains, or discoloration on the surface of the nuts. If you’d like to store nuts for a bit longer, pop them in a resealable bag and freeze them for up to a year.
Potatoes don’t have a set expiration date. A fresh bag of potatoes can be safely consumed anywhere from several weeks to 2-3 months, depending on the storage conditions. Ideally, potatoes should be stored in a dark, dry place at 45-55°F (8-13°C). But if your pantry is warmer, you’ll likely need to use up your potatoes in a few weeks.
You know potatoes have gone bad when they develop soft brown spots or smell terrible. Dry or wrinkled-looking potatoes that feel soft to the touch, green spots, or sprouting are also an indication that a potato is past its prime.
Related Article: Why You Should Never Store Potatoes in the Fridge
5. Nut butters
Where do you store peanut butter: in the fridge or in the pantry? Like nuts, opened jars of nut butters like peanut butter or almond butter will expire in around 3 months at room temperature. Due to their high oil content, nut butters are prone to rancidity and oil separation.
Refrigerating opened jars of peanut butter will extend their life and prevent oil separation for another 3-6 months. But even an unopened jar of nut butter will not last for more than a year in your pantry, so buying several jars is probably not a great idea.
Related Article: Don't Ignore the Expiry Dates for These Foods
6. Baking powder
Ever wonder why the cake you made didn’t rise, even though it usually turns out fluffy and soft? Expired baking powder could be the culprit. Unlike baking soda, baking powder has a set expiration date. Depending on the humidity in your kitchen, it will lose its leavening powers in just 6-12 months. Here’s a quick test that will help you tell if a packet of baking powder is still fresh. Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to hot water. If it starts to fizz, it’s still fresh.
If you usually buy oatmeal in bulk, try not to buy more than you will be able to use up in 4-6 months. Like whole-grain rice, oatmeal can go rancid over time. This is less common in quick oats since those are more highly processed, but steel-cut oats tend to go bad in a matter of months.
Freezing unopened bags of oatmeal can help you double its shelf life. Just don’t forget to label the date on the package. This way, you’ll know when it’s time to use it up.
8. Brown sugar
Like some of the other food items on this list, brown sugar won’t necessarily expire over time. An opened bag of brown sugar usually dries up and hardens after around 4 months of storage or less. Luckily, keeping the brown sugar in a resealable bag or container will help you keep it soft for a few more months.
Under prime storage conditions, an intact head of garlic will stay good for half a year, but an unpeeled garlic clove separated from the bulb will not last beyond 2-3 weeks. Not sure if your garlic is still good to use? Fresh and flavorful garlic clove has a light cream color and a glossy exterior. It is also firm and plump-looking.
If the garlic clove is soft, matte, and closer to yellow than white, it’s well past its prime. Any discoloration, such as brown or gray spots, is a sign of decay. Such garlic should be discarded immediately. Sprouted garlic, on the other hand, is usually fine to use. All you need to do is cut the clove in half and remove the green sprouted core. Make sure to use up sprouted garlic as quickly as you can because sprouting reduces flavor.
Related Article: Extend the Shelf Life of Garlic - Simple Tips and Tricks
10. Certain cooking oils
Cooking oils are more delicate than they seem, especially unrefined varieties like virgin olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or even sesame oil. After opening, these oils should be stored for no more than a year, and you ought to keep them in a dark, dry, and cool environment.
Olive oil, in particular, can start tasting and smelling just 6 months after opening. If you don’t use it often, it’s best to buy a small bottle - just enough to use up in 1-2 months. That being said, it’s a myth that refrigerating oil will make it last longer, so don’t crowd the fridge door with extra bottles.
Beer is best stored in the fridge, period. Otherwise, it will start oxidizing quicker and may develop unpleasant flavors in 3-4 months. “Non-refrigerated storage accelerates aging and development of off-flavors. Refrigerated storage is best for all beers at all times,” states Craftbeer.com. If you don’t have space for beer in your fridge and prefer to keep it in the pantry, buy enough to use up within a month or two.
12. Graham crackers
Graham crackers are always great to have on hand. You can use them for a cheesecake crust or make s’mores with the grandkids. However, we’d advise against buying them in bulk unless you use them in baking quite often. Even a sealed batch of graham crackers will only last you 9 months.
After that, they become stale. An opened package should be used up as quickly as possible. If you have leftover crackers from a recipe, store them in an airtight container. Otherwise, they will get stale in a matter of days.
13. Tea and coffee
Both coffee and tea will lose flavor after a few weeks, provided that you don’t store them in an airtight container. So it’s best to seal them well and use them up as quickly as you can. In addition, “tea bags can lose valuable antioxidants as they sit on the shelf over time,” stated Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian in Vancouver.
After around a year of storage, tea and coffee will also start tasting stale, so make sure to only buy enough for around a year.
Quinoa is considered to be a healthy whole grain, so many people buy it these days. Like brown rice, quinoa has a higher moisture content than processed grains or pasta, so it tends to expire much faster. If you keep quinoa in a sealed package in a dry and cold environment, it is said to last for 2-3 years from the packing date.
However, once you open the package, its longevity will go down dramatically, especially if you keep it in a warm or moist environment. How do you know that quinoa has gone bad? It will have a slightly oily or musty scent, which means that the natural oils present in the grain have gone rancid.
15. Canned goods
Canned foods may last a lifetime, but certain varieties will no longer taste good after just 1-2 years. That’s because acidic foods may start to break down the tin a little, which will give its contents a metallic taste. This taste doesn’t make the canned food unsafe to consume, it just tastes a bit off.
Pickles and canned tomatoes are more likely to do this, so keep a close eye on which tins you bought first and use them up within half a year or so. Low-acid foods, on the other hand, like canned corn or green beans will stay fresh and tasty for as long as 5 years.
16. Turmeric and some other spices
Much like garlic or baking powder, certain spices will start losing their flavor after the 1-year mark. Turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg are all examples of such spices, so make sure to buy them in small batches. If you notice that turmeric has lost its smell, you’ll need to use more of it in a recipe or buy a new bottle of the spice altogether.
Eating old turmeric and other spices, in general, isn’t bad for your health. If you want to purchase spices in bulk, we recommend buying whole spices, such as whole black pepper and cinnamon, as these last for a longer time than ground spices.
Exactly like rice, white flour lasts almost three times as long as whole-grain flour. Whole-grain flour retains its freshness for no more than 3 months, whereas white flour will keep fresh for 6-9 months. If you bought flour in bulk and don’t intend to use it up in the next half a year or so, seal it in a freezer bag and put it in the fridge or freezer. Refrigeration will prevent whole-grain flour from becoming rancid for up to 8 months, almost tripling its shelf life.
The last mention on this list is one you likely never thought of as a perishable good. But breadcrumbs too expire in around 6 months. How do you know that the breadcrumbs in your pantry are no longer good to use? Stale or rancid smells are, of course, one red flag. But be careful because old breadcrumbs, especially those stored in humid or overly warm conditions, may even develop mold or show insect activity.
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